As part of its ongoing mission to fund life-changing lung disease and lung cancer research, Lung Foundation Australia launched a powerful campaign imploring Australians to dig deep to give hope to the 7 million diagnosed with lung disease or lung cancer.
New television commercials, featuring real voices from those impacted by these devastating conditions - Australia's second biggest killer - set the scene for the first-of-its-kind Hope Research Fund.
The charity developed the Hope Research Fund as part of its mission to become the nation's leading investor in lung health research, with a goal to raise $50 million by 2030 to fund ground-breaking advancements. Already more than $8 million has been committed towards that target through pledges and gifts from the organisation's passionate community.
Lung Foundation Australia Chair, Professor Christine Jenkins AM, said since 1990, the organisation has invested nearly $41m into funding the ground-breaking work of hundreds of passionate researchers. But life-changing discoveries take time and more investment is desperately needed.
"Almost 1 in 3 Australians will be impacted by lung disease or lung cancer in their lifetime," she said.
"Every day, 45 Australian families lose a loved one to these devastating conditions. Yet, there is limited investment to help us better understand how to improve early diagnosis and find treatments that can change these heart-breaking statistics.
"Over the last several decades, we have seen how investment in research can change lives for conditions like Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, Pulmonary Fibrosis, lung cancer and rare lung diseases that affect infants and children.
"Slowly but surely, thanks to the incredible generosity of Lung Foundation Australia's community, we're seeing advancements in diagnostic processes and treatment options that are improving survival rates and quality of life for several lung conditions. Research is offering hope that has not existed before."
Professor Jenkins said the COVID-19 pandemic was a shocking reminder to all Australians of the importance of lung health and the community was now more aware, and more giving, than ever before.
"We need to build on this momentum to continue to drive real and lasting change for the millions of Australians with a lung condition," she said.
"You can make a real difference to the lives of those with lung disease, and provide real hope, by donating or leaving a legacy gift, no matter how big or small."
Michel Itel, who stars in the television commercial with his wife and daughters, was just 42 when he was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer.
For weeks, Michel carried the weight of his shocking diagnosis with the support of his wife. Michel's two beautiful daughters lost their Mum at a young age, so telling them that their Dad also had a terminal illness was heart-wrenching.
"Those were probably the hardest few weeks. Being told that I had a tumour in my spine, that my spine was ready to collapse, and I could be paralysed from the chin down, even die, was very confronting," he said.
"Research means I'm fortunate to have access to life-changing treatment as part of a trial. This treatment is giving me more precious time with my family – more birthdays, more holidays, more moments.
"I hope that somewhere in the world, someone is coming up with the next amazing medication for all the people such as me living with a lung disease or lung cancer.
"Every dollar you can give has the potential to change lives. They call it research, we call it hope."
Associate Professor Lucy Morgan, who made headlines for her gripping re-telling of the heart-breaking and lonely experiences of patients with COVID-19, is one of the hundreds of Australian researchers to have received a grant from Lung Foundation Australia. Her work has helped improve the management and treatment of patients impacted by chronic lung disease.
A/Prof Morgan said supporting lung disease and lung cancer research represents not a "drop in the ocean but the whole pool".
"The greatest joy in medical research is finding a piece of the puzzle that helps to improve the lives of our patients," she said.
"Every year, we see the hard work of researchers from the recent past come to fruition in the clinic room and bedside. It gives us hope that similar breakthrough therapies might be just around the corner for all our patients."
Lung Foundation Australia CEO Mark Brooke said despite three lung diseases being in the top five causes of death in Australia, research investment from the government was lagging behind the total burden of disease.
"The Hope Research Fund will be one of the largest non-government research funds in Australia and globally, with $8 million raised in 2020 alone," he said.
"Australia's focus on lung health has never been more attuned following the devastating bushfires and the COVID-19 pandemic, both of which made Australians pay attention to their lungs."
To watch the powerful video and for more details on the Hope Research Fund, visit lungfoundation.com.au/hope